Belmont Club

Addicted to Hate

In 2010 Vanity Fair observed that hatred sells, based on their study of magazine circulations. After Obama was elected, liberal magazines fell on hard times.

The year 2009 was a tough one for magazines in general … The three leading liberal political magazines, however, fared particularly badly. The Nation’s circulation in 2009 was down 7.4 percent from 2008, Mother Jones was down 6.7 percent, and Harper’s was down 5 percent.” It concluded that “ideologically driven magazines tend to thrive on feelings of anger and disenfranchisement, and while liberals were hardly pleased with Obama’s first year in office, the disappointment can’t compare to the emotions that Darth Cheney and Cowboy Bush inspired.

The sad fact is that hatred is often a powerful motivator than love. There is something particularly cathartic about intense hatred. George Orwell, who was a keen student of totalitarian techniques observed that hate campaigns had the same effect as a drug. They swept you up and induced a kind of altered state. Then the crowd, with their veins pumped full of emotional chemicals, would be subtly directed towards the object of destruction.

The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretense was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp. …

The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep’s bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, his sub-machine gun roaring, and seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen, so that some of the people in the front row actually flinched backwards in their seats. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-moustachio’d, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Brother faded away again, and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals:


But the face of Big Brother seemed to persist for several seconds on the screen, as though the impact that it had made on everyone’s eyeballs was too vivid to wear off immediately. The little sandy-haired woman had flung herself forward over the back of the chair in front of her. With a tremulous murmur that sounded like ‘My Savior!’ she extended her arms towards the screen. Then she buried her face in her hands. It was apparent that she was uttering a prayer.

At this moment the entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmical chant of ‘B-B!… B-B!…’ — over and over again, very slowly, with a long pause between the first ‘B’ and the second-a heavy, murmurous sound, somehow curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamp of naked feet and the throbbing of tom-toms.

This is classic Pavlovian conditioning.  Demagogues figured out that if you treated people like dogs they behaved exactly like them. In the mid-20th century there was much interest in its use as a means of controlling the “masses of people”. They were taught what to like, and most especially they were taught what to hate. And boy did it work. For much of the middle of last century these techniques of conditioning convinced millions to kill millions.

In the 1932 novel Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley, conditioning plays a key role in the maintenance of social peace, especially in maintaining the caste system upon which society is based. Children are conditioned, both in their sleep and in their daily activities, to be happy in their Government-assigned social role as Alphas, Betas, etc., as well as in adopting other “socially acceptable” types of behaviour, including consuming manufactured goods and transport, practicing free sex, etc….

Another example is in the dystopian novel, A Clockwork Orange in which the novel’s anti-hero and protagonist, Alex, undergoes a procedure called the Ludovico technique, where he is fed a solution to cause severe nausea and then forced to watch violent acts. This renders him unable to perform any violent acts without inducing similar nausea. Unintentionally, he also forms an aversion to classical music.

In the science-fiction book Ender’s Shadow, “Pavlovian mental bans” are also used to prevent crime. In the book, a controversial scientist, Anton, is kept from researching genetic experimentation by associating his work with anxiety. A device is then surgically placed in his head that would increase detected anxiety, sending him into a panic attack. The result is that Anton must remain good humored at all times, can only speak of his work through self-deceptive metaphors, and even after his Pavlovian mental ban is lifted can no longer study science.

The denizens of the 21st century, educated liberals in especial, think they are above hate. They are too smart for that sort of s**t. Today we have codes against “hate speech”, social taboos against “hateful behavior”. But a moment’s study will readily show that much of this is just sugar coating, that inside the “anti-hate” paintjob lurk actual hate campaigns themselves. Hate is today’s equivalent of Victorian sex. Everyone affects to know nothing of it, yet  the body politic would grid to a halt, not to mention go broke, without it.

The link between the Orwell’s theory of conditioning and campaign politics is not hypothetical. During the 2008 campaign Phil de Vellis consciously used the technique to create the famous Hillary 1984 ad to make the specific point “that Obama represents a new kind of politics, and that Senator Clinton’s ‘conversation’ is disingenuous. And the underlying point was that the old political machine no longer holds all the power. Let me be clear: I am a proud Democrat, and I always have been. I support Senator Obama. I hope he wins the primary.” Those are de Vellis’ exact words.

Obama did win the primary. And the question that one naturally asks is whether having won the Presidency he has put away the Orwellian techniques in favor of more statesmanlike activity, or whether fear, hatred and anxiety are still a staple of modern political motivation.

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Well we know that 2008 campaign was in part consciously modeled on 1984. Could we be as dumb as the sheeple in the ad? For some the answer is, heck yeah.

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